Stormzy’s Scholarship.

Stormzy continues to excel in his quest for world domination. Earlier today, he announced a new Stormzy Scholarship, a new venture in partnership with Cambridge University which gives two black British students the fully-funded opportunity to study at the esteemed institution.

Wow. First, his publishing project with Penguin Books – called Merky Books – and now this. What an absolutely fantastic opportunity and a boost to black British students, many of whom often feel that, while the road to Oxbridge is an option, it is not exactly open to them.

Of course in this day and age of people who moan for moaning’s sake, there were dunces out there bleating, “Why is Stormzy only doing this scholarship for underprivileged black British students? Why not include underprivileged white students?”

The reason why he is doing this, you ignorant fools, is because even an underprivileged white student has a better chance of getting into Oxbridge than a black British student – thanks to their skin colour they are not subjected to quotas or outright ignored, as everything is geared in their favour. The number of black British students at Cambridge would be laughable if it wasn’t so low – they even asked for help from schools and parents to increase the number of black British students enrolling at the university (because Cambridge ‘could not do it on its own.’)

See, this is what the class system does in Britain – it tries to obstruct certain people from certain backgrounds gaining access to certain institutions. Despite all the talk of diversity, the Oxbridge definition is along the lines of allowing more white women through the doors – a bit like golf clubs (though they still do not want women in the clubhouse). They look down upon those whose looks and image does not fit the general consensus and allow a select number of ethnic minorities within the hallowed walls – and even then, instead of allowing them to flourish, the black British contingent are made to feel like they should be forever grateful that they were allowed to study at Oxbridge. Never mind that they got there on merit by getting the grades and working their backsides off to achieve and succeed – they endured snippy comments from those who looked down at them saying, ‘You can’t sit with us.’

In an ideal world Stormzy should not have had to do this scholarship. It also (in a roundabout way) shamed Cambridge University and highlighted the lack of action with their previous (ahem) ‘efforts’ regarding diversity. However, the fact that he has made this happen demonstrates his greatness, his astute nature and his desire to level the playing field. At the end of the day, an underprivileged white student is still a white person and a part of the mainstream. Black people are a very visible minority so anything that helps raise the number of us within such stiflingly white institutions is a great thing. Education is for all – Stormzy’s scholarship proves so.

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Breast Cancer and Me.

Just over a month ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When the consultant told me, it was as if all the noise had been sucked out of the room. I knew I had a lump, so I got it checked and half-convinced myself that everything would be fine. But instead, on a beautiful summer’s day, I was told that the lump in my breast was cancerous.

I remember few things in that initial blur except my mum’s shock and the consultant saying the cancer was treatable – I clung to that word like a person at sea clinging to a rubber ring.

My mind went blank after that bombshell, until I went into another room with my mum and one of the nurses and cried my eyes out. A few minutes later, I had to have another biopsy, this time to check whether my lymph nodes were affected. I cried throughout – not because it hurt, but because I was in shock. Mum reassured me that whatever happened we would get through it, but I was in a daze.

Telling my family and friends was hard – every time I told someone close to me, I ended up tearful. My dad had no idea because I did not want to worry him until I knew the results. When I told him, he gave me a huge hug and tried to hold his emotions in check. I told my brother and sister later that day and there were lots of tears, hugs and some laughter, which was what I needed in a heavy situation like that.

The whole week leading up to the second biopsy result was awful. Everyone I know sees me as a positive person but I constantly worried that the consultant would have more bad news for me. When I went back, I discovered that my lymph nodes were also affected which was not great but, weirdly, I felt relieved knowing because waiting for results when diagnosed with breast cancer (or any cancer) is the pits.

I have had many health issues throughout my life, mainly concerning my heart. Countless operations, check-ups, a heart valve replacement – I’ve had them all. You could say I’m a veteran, but that makes me sound old (I prefer to be called unique, thanks). But this was something else. All my operations took place when I was younger and – if I’m honest – I did not understand the enormity and complexity of what I was going through. Whereas now, I’m older and wiser and understand what I’m facing.

Also when I had my heart operations, they were usually the last thing and once I got over that, I was on the road to recovery. With breast cancer, the operation felt like the beginning.

My operation was due to take place within ten days of my diagnosis but was postponed (with good reason) until a week later. I had a lumpectomy and axillary node clearance, but have to undergo another (minor) operation. I’m not as worried about that because nothing compares to the nerves I felt before my first op. After that, it’s all about what comes next: radiotherapy, chemotherapy or both? I’m steeling myself to undergo both treatments.

Physically, I feel ok. Although my wound is still sore and tight, it is healing well and feeling steady. I’m mainly thinking positive and trying to be good to myself. I have had so much love from my family and friends – but it is not always easy. I wish I could magic the cancer away. I wish I could go to the gym and (if I exercise hard enough) all this would disappear, but it does not work like that. So I distract myself by writing, drawing, watching TV and scrolling through Twitter.

My cancer situation has triggered a whole load of emotions. When I got the initial diagnosis, I was very upset and surprised at how angry I was. My other health issues had calmed down so I was looking forward to a lovely summer, going out and enjoying life. Now, all that was on hold and I didn’t know how long for.

Also, this is happening during the hottest summer Britain has had in decades. Bar the torrential downpour that came a couple of weeks ago, London has had no rain since May, just wall-to-wall blue skies and sunshine. It is both amazing and unbearable.

Now, ladies (and gentlemen), I cannot stress enough how important it is to check your breasts. If you feel awkward doing so then you need to start getting acquainted with your body. If you think something feels a bit odd but not enough for you to go to the doctor – DO IT ANYWAY. Too many people choose to ignore things instead. Don’t do this. Check yourself and get checked out. ❤️

©️ G. Holder 2018

Rudd Resignation: My Verdict.

Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary on Sunday night. I feel a slight degree of sympathy for her, as she fell on her sword by taking the blame for her predecessor’s mess. The Windrush debacle is mainly Theresa May’s fault as it was she who lit the fuse for this scandal when she was Home Secretary in 2010. May should step down but she’s currently immovable as PM because her supposed leadership is needed to steer the Good Ship Brexit and if she goes, we’ll be rudderless (no pun intended) as we veer towards one of the most pivotal moments in British history.

I’m amazed that she’s still at the helm after the shitfest that was last year (or last June). She did not have the landslide victory that was predicted at the general election, then the Grenfell Tower tragedy occurred and her failure to reach out to those affected made her a lame duck PM. Cut to nearly a year later and she’s still here, like a fly on excrement and it’s a shame.

Someone had to take the blame for the Windrush debacle and it had to be Rudd – she was the person in charge and didn’t seem to know what was going on and she ‘inadvertently misled’ MPs (her own words) about this and other issues, so she had to go. But May is getting off scot-free and surely that cannot be right? Everyone knows that she should resign but it’s like a whole heap of tumbleweed has blown into Parliament because it seems nobody is coming out and saying it.

Korean Skincare Cleansing Routine: My Verdict.

I tried the Korean 10-step skincare routine that has revolutionised the beauty world. Here are my thoughts on how it went…

Why?

I am a sucker for beauty products and love trying and buying new skincare items and finding different ways to get great skin. Although my skincare routine prior to this made my face flawless, I had been wearing more make-up recently and was keen to try out Korean-style cleansing, so I threw caution to the wind and went for it.

The method.

The 10 steps to glorious skin Korean-style are laid out below:

To start with, I cleansed my face with extra virgin olive oil almost everyday, smothering it all over my boat-race with abandon before wiping it off with a hot(ish) cloth. I then used my soap-free face wash (from a well-known brand) or my cleansing lotion to complete the double cleanse.

After that, it was onto the toner, then I gave the essence a swerve. I will freely admit that I sort of skipped that part because I am a cheap bitch and did not fancy paying over £60 for something that may or may not have aggravated my dry and sensitive skin. I am a high-street kinda girl – nothing wrong with more expensive items but high-street stores have upped their game when it comes to skincare.

Also, facial essence is quite a highbrow product and I could not find many on the high street, only online at ridiculous prices. So I used a Vitamin C skin booster as an inexpensive alternative to the essence and mixed it with my facial serum. But the strong scent of the skin booster triggered a reaction (the serum was not fragranced) so I had to stay away from that as well.

I finished off with the final three steps (eye cream, Shea butter and cocoa butter) and went on my merry way.

The result.

I was so enthusiastic when I started adopting the Korean skincare routine. It may have ten steps but it was not as long-winded as I thought it would be. I enjoyed the self-care element of it, as you couldn’t really rush yourself. You had to give yourself a bit of time to devote to your face and that practice was nice.

But I soon realised that double cleansing literally meant over-cleansing. Yes, the routine removed every last bit of makeup from my face, but a few days after I started, several dreadful dark patches rocked up on my face. I’ve had these patches many times before and now they are on my forehead and all over my cheeks and around my mouth. The irony is my face felt good and not dried out or dehydrated, but the dark areas showed up to a party they were not invited to, along with a load of blemishes and have scarred my face.

The Koreans are all about looking after their skin with more than a face wipe and, while I understand that this is beneficial, there is such a thing as over-cleansing. The whole ten-step routine proved too much for me. The glowing skin that I had a fortnight ago had gone and it was all because I over-cleansed. My skin was telling me, ‘Leave it, Gill,’ and I did not notice until it was too late.

I still think oil cleansing is a good way to cleanse your skin, especially if you have been wearing make-up all day. It purged all traces of foundation and concealer, but it also dried my skin out and gave me an uneven skintone. However, I will continue using this method, but not so often – once or twice a week rather than everyday. After all, less is more. People with oily skin would more than likely find double cleansing to be a real boost to their skincare regime but for me, doing that on a daily basis was problematic.

So now I’m going back to basics to restore my face to its former glory. Bish, bash, bosh.

Overall, I’m glad I tried the routine by I realised that a lot of these skincare trends aren’t for me. Ten steps to flawless skin is not happening via this method. I’m keeping it simple from now on.

Beggars Belief.

Another day, another example of a council showing their callous disregard for those in their region. Fresh from councils putting spikes in doorways and weirdly shaped steel straps on benches to deter homeless people from sleeping rough, now Poole council are to start fining beggars £100 for bedding down in their city centre. Where these beggars are going to find the money to pay off said debt is another matter.

In this day and age where many people are one missed payment away from ending up on the streets, this is a pretty shitty idea. The price of everything is going up but people’s salaries are often not enough to cover their rent or bills and many are constantly teetering on the edge. Whatever happened to helping residents? Because let’s be honest, that is what these homeless people are. They barely have much so how are you, dear council, planning to collect the money from them? Prise the pennies out of their cold hands?

There must be a better alternative than enforcing fines that will not be paid. How the hell are they going to pay? They have no fixed abode yet will miraculously have the funds to cough up £100 each time they are caught sleeping in a car park. It will be like a bar tab that is not resolved – and what happens then? Will that person continue to accumulate more fines until it reaches a level where it will be written off? If that is the case, surely it will be a pointless exercise and a failure for the council to add to their list.

Various people have been vocal in their criticism of the plan (which was originally put off due to the anger against it) and more than 3,500 people have signed a petition to get this new plan shelved. But it’s to no avail, as this fining fiasco is to go ahead next month. It does not seem like they will differentiate between ‘professional’ beggars and those that are genuinely in hard times either – it’s a one size fits all policy, which makes things worse and makes absolutely no sense.

Nobody wants to see homeless people sleeping rough but this is not the solution most had in mind. The government must do more than pay lip service for those in need. It should not be left to the likes of Shelter to always step in and help the homeless – this is a nationwide issue, after all.

What about helping the homeless to not be in such a situation? Give them the means to find other accommodation or something. Perhaps open up a soup kitchen for the whole year, instead of the odd one at Christmas that can barely hold the total number of homeless in your borough? Anything must be better than treating them like an empty cash machine?

I don’t know what Poole council hope to achieve from this but it is likely they will target those that actually need their help rather than this nonsense. Good luck to them trying to enforce this – maybe some good will come out of this but judging by the way it will be implemented, I doubt that very much.

Precedent for the President.

A few things about Trump and his state visit to Britain, which has been put off ‘indefinitely’.

Following the lunacy of the current President of the United States retweeting not one, but three videos from the Twitter account of extreme British right-wing party Britain First, the calls for Trump to be banned from entering the UK grow louder every day. Now, if he was plain old Donald Trump, loudmouth billionaire extraordinaire, I’m sure it would be easy for the powers that be (namely, one Theresa May) to ban him from our shores because he would be deemed as not a very important person. An insignificant blustering billionaire aiming to build yet another golf course.

But- whether you like it or not -Trump is the President of the United States. Things have changed. His status has changed. His power and reach have changed (and have far-reaching consequences). If he were to be banned from Britain, the precedent set for the President would not bode well for the future.

Also, we cannot pick and choose democracy as and when we feel like it. I disagree with pretty much everything he has said and done since his inauguration, but I feel like banning him from the country would defeat the object and purpose of democracy. He is not some random reality TV wannabe anymore, he is the supposed President of the Free World (whatever that means). He also has some support in this country from those who like his bullish approach and the values he claims to stand for. So banning him is not as simple as it sounds.

It is also a major headache for our Prime Minister Theresa May, because the Brexit deadline is fast approaching (March 2019 will come round sooner than you think) and the government are keen to seal those trade deals with America once we commit hari-kari and separate from the European Union.

I believe Trump should come to Britain for his state visit. He should step off Air Force One and be greeted at Heathrow airport or some unidentified airfield somewhere in the shires. He should be chauffeured through the streets in London. But we should not close all the roads for him and literally give him an easy ride, oh no. If he deigns to grace us with his presence, Trump should be given a first-hand experience of exactly what the majority of the British public really think of him, protests and all. Let him see how most of the British public are not hoodwinked by his bullshit, bluster and bravado. Let him see how vexed and angry we are at his actions and his terrible hair. Stick him on Question Time and put him up against some of the big guns in politics and beyond on the panel. I’ll bring the popcorn as we watch him be bombarded with questions.

There is a possibility that he will love all the attention- after all, there is no such thing as bad publicity in his eyes, and him being heckled and hollered at by members of the British public would be seized upon by his people as a sign of how badly he had been treated or demonised. But no matter- let the state visit go ahead (whenever that will be) and let the games begin.

So Late and So Awkward.

Time for some praise.

I finally got round to watching The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. I have been meaning to for some time but I’m terrible with most television unless it’s Line of Duty (I always watch that shit live because it is amazing). Family and friends recommend boxsets to me and I never get round to watching them. I still have an unopened DVD of the first series of Mad Men on my shelf- that’s how bad I am.

So I thought I would watch Awkward Black Girl and see what it’s like, especially as I like Issa Rae and I haven’t started watching Insecure yet (See? I’m rubbish at this).

It is absolutely brilliant. I devoured the first series in a few hours; the second one in an evening- it’s that good.

Awkward Black Girl is about a woman called Jay and how she navigates through life with her awkward self. There are many hiccups along the way (some self-inflicted, others not) but the sheer brilliance of the writing and acting resulted in one of the funniest programmes I have ever watched. I also discovered to my detriment how difficult it is to watch this show at work. The episode where Jay is at a party and everyone on the dancefloor is abruptly stopped by the DJ so they can sing ‘Happy Birthday’ had me sitting at my desk unable to laugh as hysterically as I wanted to for fear of embarrassing myself, so I ended up convulsing with laughter instead.

Not only is Awkward Black Girl incredibly funny, it resonated with me because I am definitely one of them. I thought I was the only one who felt like this but apparently not, judging by the number of comments left after each video. Most people seem so self-assured and composed, while I’m usually the muppet who stumbles and trips over her words and is constantly trying to please other people instead of myself.

Her passive-aggressive behaviour struck a chord as well. That desire to tell someone to fuck off but instead you bite your tongue and repress that feeling? That’s me every single day.

Before anyone says it’s a bit late for a review considering that it came out in 2011 and Issa Rae and Tracy Oliver have moved onto bigger and brighter things… yes, I am late to the party and nobody is more annoyed about this than myself but well, better late than never. Awkward Black Girl is fantastic, relatable and reflects my life far more than I imagined. If you have not watched it, make it a priority to do so.